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1979 Dodge Lil Red Express Truck Restoration

jumbreit

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I picked up an old and tired Lil Red Express truck August of 2011 and have started a complete restoration. This is my first resto and we took quite a bit of time looking for the right project, but once I found this Lil Red on Craigslist I knew this is what I wanted...not just because I've always loved the Lil Reds, but also because trucks are a lot easier to restore.

I'll post updates as I progress...

Hereit is at the previous owners'
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jumbreit

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1st Year of Lil Red Express Restoration

It's been a year since I picked up my Lil Red Express. This March (thanks to the incredibly warm spring) I started the tear-down with the help of my 10 and 7 year old boys. It took much of the summer to get everything off the frame and sand it down. I had the bed (saved the rear fenders), front fenders and bumpers taken to the salvage yard as I picked up a replacement '76 bed off Craigslist. Plus, when I bought the truck it included a couple front fenders and bumpers.

I got everything all prepped and ready on Labor Day weekend 2012 and coated the frame with POR15 plus a couple coats of semi gloss black enamel, which is where I needed to be according to my schedule (and budget).

For 2013 I will be putting the cleaned, coated (or new) front and rear suspension components back on. I decided to replace the cab too, I found a clean one at the local salvage yard with very little rust on drivers' side floor pan (plus it's red and has rear sliding window). I'm saving tons not having to get a welder and replacement sheet metal so that will help me move my timeline up almost 6-months since I promised I'd spend no more than $100/mo on this project (12mo average of course).
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bear

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I like to see it when someone is bringing new life to an ole Dodge truck . Good job ! Your getting lucky finding good used parts for it to . Here in Mass , that's close to imposable !
 

jumbreit

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Maybe it's because there are a lot of farms in this area. There are usually at least 3 or 4 pre-94 pickups in the junkyards I visit. Granted this is Wisconsin so the sheet metal's not usually in the best of shape. I'm looking forward to getting the replacement cab this week along with some rear leaf spring mounts, a bed mount and a/c (all off an '86).

I also got really lucky with the number of parts that came with my truck, along with the 2 front fenders, front and rear bumpers, but also grills, mirrors, door handles, plus a myriad of other exterior and interior parts, radio, 3-carbs, a sure grip diff, and an extra (albeit incorrect year) stepside bed, sliding rear window, carpeting and the list goes on...
 

1baddak

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I love the LRE . I had a 78 for 31 years. sure hated to see it go. had to make room for a 4x4 I needed more. What kind of seat do you have in it. I ve still got a lot of parts left around. But no stacks. Did you get any with the truck? Have fun.
 

jumbreit

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I could tell the original owner was having a hard time letting it go as well, even though it sat idle in his backyard for 10 years. I've got the black buckets and they only have a couple of tears along some seams, so definitely repairable. I do have the stacks, which is good because replacements are expensive. The only Lil Red Express specific parts I'll need are the chrome steps.

And yes, I am having fun and I'm looking forward to another 4-5 years of this
 

1baddak

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little red exp

Are you to putting it back stock? I ran a 440 in mine for about 6 years then when I got ready to sell it I put the org. 360 back in it. It made a great tow truck for my car. I hated to see it go but it was time for me to get a 4x4 and it had to go.
 

jumbreit

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An '86

I also asked them to pull off the rear leaf spring mounts for an extra $50.

10/18/2012 - Cab pulled
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--not sure if I'm keeping the running lights

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Bob Cain

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looks like a nice 86 i am sure you are aware 79 and 86 are different cabs but you can use the floor pan in your 79 cab
BC
 

jumbreit

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All my research suggested that the cab (and chassis) was the same from '73 through '92. The only real change on the cab came when they moved the fuel tank out of the cab. The body lines from the 80's redesign end at the door and before the rear pillar.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong though, so I can prepare for any possible issues I may have such as door, fender or hood fitment.
 
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Bob Cain

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I will have to check my 81 and 79 a little closer i may just have thought they were different the 79 appears to be more rounded where the 81 looks more squared they are 10 feet from each other a lot when i have them together next i will check closer I thought some one would have more input here whats going on guys and gals trucks are a year around sport NO WONDER SO MANY BABY'S are born from June thru August : }
 

jumbreit

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I was thinking the same thing about the input from the other members...I guess I'll be the one to finally answer the question of putting an '86 cab on a '79 (while using the rest of the '79 parts).

I think they only squared off the fenders and doors, but that body line tapers off on the door, probably so they didn't have to modify the cab at all. I'm heading out to the yard today to make sure it's pulled this week and as soon as I get it home you can be sure I'll be sitting it on the frame and tossing the doors on to get a preliminary look at how it's going to fit.
 

jumbreit

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Okay, I picked up the cab this morning from Wally's U-Pull It in Oshkosh, WI. So to answer the question of whether or not an '86 First Generation Ram cab from an would fit on a classic '79 D150, I started putting putting the body together. I got the cab on, bolted on the doors and front aftermarket fenders to the cab and set the bed on the frame too. Everything went on just like it came off the '79 (thanks to properly labeled baggies of nuts and bolts) and fit just as well.
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I lowered the frame stands just to get an idea how it'd look if I dropped it a bit.
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jumbreit

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Quick progress update: I wanted to wait until I hit a milestone before posting, but I finally got the front suspension put back together after cleaning everything up, coating with POR15 and/or painting. Replaced some bushings, a couple tie-rod ends, shocks and calipers. I need to replace the sway bar links, but they're a bit hard to find.

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Now I move on to the rear end and get that back together before moving on to brake and fuel lines. I'm still looking for tank straps.

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bear

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It's nice to see your truck is coming together well . Everything is look'in good ! Sorry I missed your question on the possible cab issue . I would have told you not to worry about it . Of course you know your going to have to pull your windshield to swap out your dash right ?
 
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